Thursday - 23 October 2014

Schools policy risks future of arts and crafts say West Dean director

30 June 2014Written by Ivan Macquisten

The school curriculum needs to focus more on arts and crafts if the creative industries are to have a future in the UK. So says the director of education at West Dean in West Sussex.

Francine Norris, who oversees the college's programme of courses, which include conservation and visual arts, fears that a lack of funding and focus on this area of learning and skills development is likely to damagethe arts industry and museums sector among others.

"At West Dean College there is a broad mix of people, all ages and all backgrounds, from young artists and trainee conservators, many supported by our bursary scheme, to mid-career changers and some people who simply find a sense of purpose and meaning through making," she says. "The one thing all of these people have in common is that they were introduced to making skills when they were at school. This is now changing and it will become increasingly rare in future for people to have this opportunity."

Ms Norris quoted one recent study that showed the number of arts GCSEs studied by children had fallen by 14% since The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was introduced in 2010.

"The EBacc does not include arts subjects and as this is the main performance measure for schools currently, it is not surprising that participation has decreased as both schools and parents focus on the qualifications that 'count'."

University Courses

The decline is also evident at university level, she says: "With virtually the entire sector being excluded from the STEM designation that attracts teaching and research grants from government, a recent Crafts Council report identified a 39% decline in the number of arts and crafts degree courses being offered in the five years to 2012."

Such courses are expensive to run as they involve costly materials, skilled technical support, and are based on studio and workshop practice.

"Ironically though, according to the Crafts Council, the overall number of university applications for the arts and crafts is not dropping," said Ms Norris. "This is due in the main to the increasing numbers of overseas students, particularly at postgraduate level, that still see the UK as a centre of excellence."

Lack of support where it is needed could have an impact on the UK's creative industries sector, which is worth £71.4bn a year and is world-leading, she added.

 

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